Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hitchens and Marx's carbuncles

Hitchens at his best: "The Revenge of Karl Marx."

...there was an underlying love-hate relationship between Marx and capitalism. As early as the Manifesto, he had written of capitalism’s operations with a sort of awe, describing how the bourgeoisie had revolutionized all human and social and economic relations, and had released productive capacities of a sort undreamed-of in feudal times. Wheen speculates that Marx was being magnanimous because he thought he was writing capitalism’s obituary, and though this is a nice conceit, it does not quite explain Marx’s later failure, in Capital, to grasp quite how revolutionary capitalist innovation really was. (The chapter on new industrial machinery opens with a snobbish quotation from John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy: “It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.” This must have seemed absurd even at the time, and it appears preposterous after the third wave of technological revolution and rationalization that modern capitalism has brought in its train.) There’s also the not-inconsiderable question of capitalism’s ability to decide, if not on the value of a commodity, at least on some sort of price for the damn thing. Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk and the other members of the Austrian school were able to point out this critical shortcoming of Capital—no pricing policy—during Marx’s lifetime, and it would have been good if Wheen had found some room for the argument (especially vivid among Austrians for some reason) that went back and forth from Rudolf Hilferding to Joseph Schumpeter, whose imposing “creative destruction” theory of capitalism has its own dualism.

Rereading those wonderful Viennese polemics, I was reminded of a slight but hard-to-forget quip (in both of those respects rather typical) made in my hearing by the late Isaiah Berlin. His own book on Marx was as good as useless, but he would often have fun pretending to “mark” the old man for an exam in Oxford’s course on philosophy, politics, and economics: “I think probably a beta in economics, yes really a beta, but rather better in philosophy and an alpha—one might even want to say an alpha plus—in politics.” Had it been an examination in history, greatest of the muses, then who can say? (A. J. P. Taylor thought that “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” was, as a historical essay, “without flaw.”) But even here, the estimation must give way to irony. At the conclusion of his article, John Cassidy wrote of Marx, “His books will be worth reading as long as capitalism endures.” That would appear to mean that Marxism and capitalism are symbiotic, and that neither can expect to outlive the other, which is not quite what the prophet intended when he sat all those arduous days in that library in Bloomsbury, and swore hotly to Engels, “I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day.”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

There is no God! Part IV or whatever

How can this be?

Old age is often blamed for causing us to misplace car keys, forget a word or lose our train of thought.

But new research shows that many well-known effects of ageing may start decades before our twilight years.

According to scientists, our mental abilities begin to decline from the age of 27 after reaching a peak at 22.

The researchers studied 2,000 men and women aged 18 to 60 over seven years. The people involved – who were mostly in good health and well-educated – had to solve visual puzzles, recall words and story details and spot patterns in letters and symbols.

Similar tests are often used to diagnose mental disabilities and declines, including dementia.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Current listening

I'm not sure what to call Black Label Society but "Music for a dark alley" will certainly suffice!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sociology boils down to these four clusters

School #2 Critical Social Theory, in my humble opinion, has destroyed any worthy study of sociology. No well-rounded sociologist should graduate university without knowing this master.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Seattle Times offers up a Favor Factory

If there's a public service award in journalism, it probably ought to go to the Seattle Times for its Favor Factory. This is pretty good effort at transparency.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The rest of the story, RIP

A great American has shed his mortal coil. Paul Harvey 1918-2009.

More here.

CHICAGO – Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer whose staccato style made him one of the nation's most familiar voices, died Saturday in Arizona, according to ABC Radio Networks. He was 90.

Harvey died surrounded by family at a hospital in Phoenix, where he had a winter home, said Louis Adams, a spokesman for ABC Radio Networks, where Harvey worked for more than 50 years. No cause of death was immediately available.

Harvey had been forced off the air for several months in 2001 because of a virus that weakened a vocal cord. But he returned to work in Chicago and was still active as he passed his 90th birthday. His death comes less than a year after that of his wife and longtime producer, Lynne.

"My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news," Paul Harvey Jr. said in a statement. "So in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents and today millions have lost a friend."

Known for his resonant voice and trademark delivery of "The Rest of the Story," Harvey had been heard nationally since 1951, when he began his "News and Comment" for ABC Radio Networks.

He became a heartland icon, delivering news and commentary with a distinctive Midwestern flavor. "Stand by for news!" he told his listeners. He was credited with inventing or popularizing terms such as "skyjacker," "Reaganomics" and "guesstimate."

"Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation's history," ABC Radio Networks President Jim Robinson said in a statement. "We will miss our dear friend tremendously and are grateful for the many years we were so fortunate to have known him."

In 2005, Harvey was one of 14 notables chosen as recipients of the presidential Medal of Freedom. He also was an inductee in the Radio Hall of Fame, as was Lynne.

Former President George W. Bush remembered Harvey as a "friendly and familiar voice in the lives of millions of Americans."

"His commentary entertained, enlightened, and informed," Bush said in a statement. "Laura and I are pleased to have known this fine man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Harvey composed his twice-daily news commentaries from a downtown Chicago office near Lake Michigan.

Rising at 3:30 each morning, he ate a bowl of oatmeal, then combed the news wires and spoke with editors across the country in search of succinct tales of American life for his program.

At the peak of his career, Harvey reached more than 24 million listeners on more than 1,200 radio stations and charged $30,000 to give a speech. His syndicated column was carried by 300 newspapers.

His fans identified with his plainspoken political commentary, but critics called him an out-of-touch conservative. He was an early supporter of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy and a longtime backer of the Vietnam War.

Perhaps Harvey's most famous broadcast came in 1970, when he abandoned that stance, announcing his opposition to President Nixon's expansion of the war and urging him to get out completely.

"Mr. President, I love you ... but you're wrong," Harvey said, shocking his faithful listeners and drawing a barrage of letters and phone calls, including one from the White House.

In 1976, Harvey began broadcasting his anecdotal descriptions of the lives of famous people. "The Rest of the Story" started chronologically, with the person's identity revealed at the end. The stories were an attempt to capture "the heartbeats behind the headlines." Much of the research and writing was done by his son, Paul Jr.

Harvey also blended news with advertising, a line he said he crossed only for products he trusted.

In 2000, at age 82, he signed a new 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks.

Harvey was born Paul Harvey Aurandt in Tulsa, Okla. His father, a police officer, was killed when he was a toddler. A high school teacher took note of his distinctive voice and launched him on a broadcast career.

While working at St. Louis radio station KXOK, he met Washington University graduate student Lynne Cooper. He proposed on their first date (she said "no") and always called her "Angel." They were married in 1940 and had a son, Paul Jr.

They worked closely together on his shows, and he often credited his success to her influence. She was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997, seven years after her husband was. She died in May 2008